''OK. Let's see your papers'' barked the customs official at KennedyI international Airport. ''But we are the papers,'' someone bounced backin diplomatically dulcet tones; whereupon we became integrated in the largestpromotional campaign ever launched by Buddah and Charisma Records
Genesis were up for salein the biggest make-or-break attempt since Brinsley Schwarz played theFillmore East three years ago.
Top New York FM stationWNEW had linked up with Buddah to promote a single show at New York's threethousand capacity Philharmonic Hall on 45th and Broadway, and all the leadingAmerican writers had homed in on the gigÑ from Philadelphia. Boston,Detroit, and. of course. Los Angeles.
Acquaintances were struckup, reunions.brought about and impressions exchanged during the heady atmosphereof anticipation at Buddah before the gig.
And all because one NewYork radio station. in particular DJ Scott Muni Ñ had been floodingthe air with the new British wonder product.
The seductive voice ofAlison Steele had rammed Genesis down the throats of all WNEW listeners.Pete Gabriel tuned in apprehensively and then broke into a grin: 'My lifehas changed since I started using Genesis.' he mimicked, and by this timethe whole event had become slightly surreal.
A double deck London Transportomnibus drew up outside the Ameri cane Hotel on 7th and 53rd to take usto the gig and America's writers finally extricated themselves from theirdiscourses on the ars nova of the English rock culture that Genesis representedand awoke to their new unprecedented environment.
A double deck bus, wow,man, far out man. "Hey man if they have an accident down there do we havethe same accident up here? Wow man far out. Hey man I've never seen Manhattanfrom this height before."
Try and picture the situationin which Genesis had suddenly become fixed. The politics of experiencehumming about their ears like a bad dream; no-one wanted to be disappointedno-one was there for the slaughter but it was evident that no Americancritic would shed any tears if the gig went sour.
The interpreters and annalistshave been stretched beyond the demarcation lines by English charlatans,it appears, and whatever they were going to make of the Genesis gig viewswere pretty certain to be dogmatic and polarised
Yet the shrewd mechanicsbehind the operation require some qualification for the initial maneouvrescontributed in no small measure to the ultimate success.
WNEW hold an annual Christmasconcert in aid of the Cerebral Palsy Fund. It's a goodwill concert. profitsto charity. an exchange of gifts and a general exhibition of charity which,like everything else in New York, is tastelessly ostentatious.
Scott Muni is one of thebig shots at WNEW and an Anglofi~ who picked up on Genesis as soon as Buddahhad started the ball rolling. Soon he was playing tracks like "WatcherOf The Skies", which may be edited down for a single release, and "Supper'sReady", and as the campaign gained momentum so interest picked up in Philadelphia,Phoenix and, more important in Cleveland, Ohio. which has suddenly becomethe place where trends begin.
String Driven Thing, thenew Charisma band booked to support Genesis had also been given good airplay on album tracks like "Circus", and "My Real Hero", and there was everychance that they would create a similar impact.
But as the hour of hoursapproached, the acute sense of anticipation changed to one of mild foreboding.
Proceedings were thirtyminutes late kicking off and the capacity audience were subjected to allkinds of platitudinous preamble as deejays were introduced and they inturn did their PR thing for the Cerebral Palsy Fund.
The slow hand-clappingwhich prefaced the arrival of String Driven Thing must have put the fearof God up them, but luckily they withstood the pressure, settled quicklyand showed remarkable composure and equilibrium for such an inexperiencedgroup.
They opened confidentlywith "Let Me Down", and as if already primed to New York audiences theyignored the shit that was hurled sporadically and really got off on thepredominant appreciation.
By the time they reached "My Real Hero" and "Regent Street Incident",they had conveyed sufficient Scottish traits and British enthusiasm tohave convinced those who were willing to be convinced.
Some picked it up fromChris Adams' down to earth almost self-indulgent rock and roll, othersfixed on the petite waif-like figure of his wife Pauline and the freaksfound something to associate with in the weird spectral appearance of GraemeSmith, who wove strange wafer thin violin lines over the top of solid rockand roll.
String Driven Thing hadtheir hassles Ñ little equipment problems but by the time they wrappedup the set with the traditional flavoured "Jack Diamond" they'd earnedtheir champagne and had justified a 3.000 mile journey for a mere 45 minutes.
Genesis' preparatory workhad been slow and meticulous. allowing no room for lastminute slip-upsÑor so they thought. Richard McPhail and his road crew had crossedthe Atlantic a week in advance to check out the hall, arrange the specialeffects and figure out an eleventh hour "rehearsal" gig before a handfulof kids in Boston the night before.
It was then that theirworst fears were confirmed. The voltage changes onto the American circuithad left problems with Tony Banks' organ and musically the Boston gig justdidn't get off the ground. There were all kinds of sound problems althoughRichard was confident that an early start at the Philharmonic Hall wouldenable a satisfactory sound check well ahead of schedule.
At least that's what wouldhave happened had the Philharmonic Hall been available to the group onthe afternoon of the gig.
"But we couldn't takeover the hall until 4 o'clock," Peter Gabriel explained afterwards "Wedidn't want to do it with only four hours' setting up time. In the endwe didn't get the sound check done at all because the Philharmonic Orchestrawere using the hall and it was the first time in two years that we haven'tdone a sound check before the i
"On top of that we wereusing strange equipment and the whole thing had become quite absurd."
And that wasn't all, forPeter had become a victim of the Gorham Hotel's less than adequate ventilationand had woken in a stifled room with signs of catarrh and symptoms of nut
Watching the group takethe stage, Tony Stratton-Smith must have felt like the manager of an injury-doggedfootball team making their first sortie into Europe.
The MC gave a nice introduction,reminding the audience of Keith Emerson's recommendations and Genesis stormedstraight into one of the best versions of "Watcher Of The Skies" I haveheard.
From there the impactintensified and when Peter Gabriel appeared through the darkness duringthe late stages of "Musical Box" and the lights suddenly greeted the strangeapparition of the fox's head and long red dress, the audience reacted volubly.
In retrospect the Gabrielmannerisms which we in England now take for granted, probably won the eveningfor Genesis in New York: I doubt whether the audience would have toleratedthe ensuing hassles but for the shimmering mysticism which Gabriel constantlyrepresented.
He handled the situationbeautifully almost punctiliously, whilst being forced to concede that theband were only playing "at around 70 per cent". As one critic pointed outafterwards, the slightest evidence of glitter and razzledazzle would haveblown it completely.
As usual Gabriel prefaced~~his songs with fantastic stories, but it was after "Fountains Of Salmacis"that the problems began.
Mike Rutherford trieddesperately to cure an intermittent buzz from his bass and as the breakdowns)at the end of each number grew longer and more embarrassing so the onusfell heavily on Peter Gabriel and drummer Phil Collins.
"lt was after that thirdnumber that I began to lose control of the situation because we were havingall the hassles of the equipment," Pete recalled. "If we could have hadall the facilities and the time to get things right then this would havebeen the way I'd like to have tackled America." he decided.
Meanwile, the concerthad continued to balance on a fine edge as Genesis approached 'Supper'sReady". Gabriel again came up with the perfect gesture when, during oneof the all too frequent interludes. he produced a camera, strode to thefront of the stage, focused on the audience and shot. flash gun and all.It evoked the sort of response that must have brought a deep sigh of relieffrom Tony Stratton Smith.
"I've never been so nervousbefore a gig since I've been in the business," he declared. ~'The onlycomparable occasion was the Nice's first gig at the Fillmore East.
"But what impressed mewas that in spite of the technical hang ups they got 100 per cent reaction,"he added.
"I felt that if one wasever to take a gamble Ñ and it was an enormous gamble Ñ thenit should be done with a group that (a) had a really fine show and (b)a group that was coming to the top of the curve in terms of confidenceand I think they were just at the right point in time to do this sort ofthing. It was a tremendous challenge for the band."
In a sense the band werea little too ambitious in tackling the epic composition
"Supper's Ready", and sure enough just when it mattered most PeteGabriel's voice failed him,, disappearing at worst into a hoarse and inaudiblewhisper.
"It demanded a lot ofsensitive singing that I wasn't able to provide," Pete reflected, but thecombined skills of Steve Hackett, gliding and whining staccato style acrosshis new Les Paul, and Tony Banks strung out, detached and insignificanton the right flank to keep the number building towards something like itsusual climatic ending; audience response, however, was fairly indifferentalthough the sporadic cry for some rock and roll which had shattered thesilence earlier in the evening was not repeated.
"Return Of The Giant Hogweed"brought back memories of early Family and it was a good number with whichto close the show. Gabriel seemed to find a second wind and the show closedas powerfully as it had started with those that could move surging to thefront, those that couldn't moving significantly into the aisles.
The final ovation wastremendous by any standards. The reaction was genuine Ñ the crowdwanted more Ñ and that's an extremely rare sight for a little-knownBritish band making their debut in New York.
And so Genesis came backto do "The Knife", after which the house lights were quickly up.
The band retired and theuninitiated might justifiably have thought it would be to celebrate theirsuccess.
Instead they locked themselvesaway in the dressing room and would speak to noone. They were mentallyexhausted, psychologically brought down because they'd played a milliongigs better than that one. It was scant consolation that however well they'dplayed they could scarcely have created more impact.
Mike Rutherford, the manwhom the Gods had treated particularly harshly, appeared at the backstagedoor and was greeted with a bitter sweet mixture of congratulations andcondolences.
It is on such occasionsthat aftermath parties become slightly embarrassing and it was conspicuousthat the guests were well into their cocktails before Genesis had regainedsufficient equilibrium to make it along to the Tavern On The Green on CentralPark's west side.
It seemed rather predictablethat as the party swung into the morning and Genesis began to straightenout a little. there was still no sign of Peter Gabriel. He showed up eventually,but it was obvious that the gig had taken its toll and. Iike Richard McPhail,his voice was suffering.
Next day the Buddah officewas buzzing with genuine excitement Ñ excitement from the feedbackthat was starting to filter through and excitement as a result of whatthey had seen with their own eyes.
Executives kept wanderingpast muttering superlatives at no-one in particular. Neil Bogart was "overwhelmed"everybody kept saying, and when the man himself fluttered by, sure enough,he was indeed overwhelmed.
Sha Na Na s manager keptappearing from nowhere and accosted all and sundry with a battery of beautifullines. He eventually caught up with Peter Gabriel in one of the executiverooms where we congregated to hear a WNEW radio playback on the group.
A rotound, jocular man,he duly approached Peter: 'Y'know, your representative explained the groupto me in such a way that I knew our relationship would be one of classwarfare ..."
The place broke up, thetension eased. Gabriel and Rutherford were in good spirits Tony Banks andSteve Hackett were typically tacit and Phil Collins continued to grin andjest Ñ just as he had been doing since the band arrived in the States.He was getting off on the entire junket and intermittent punctuations werepurely incidental as far as he was concerned.
And so Thursday nightthe party made its way out to Kennedy Airport for a short stop over atLondon before flying out to Hamburg for what could only be an anticlimaxÑ"aroutine gig".
Peter Gabriel emergedfrom the 747 frantically pulling his hair across the shaved area of hishead which two nights before had been glistening with white paint.
Suddenly he was facedwith the reality of customs officials and his one aim was to make himselflook presentable and ease his plight.
The customs deskÑwherethe story came in. Peter Gabriel turned, proferred a hand. inquired inhis humble manner whether there was anything else I wanted to know, anddisappeared.
The gathering disseminatedand the operation which had cost Buddah and Charisma a total of $16,000to promote, was now a memory.
Sixteen thousand grandfor one operationÑA small price to pay for an ephemeral onslaughtwhich will be ringing around the United States for a long time yet.